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Clarence Herbert Woolston, author of Jesus Loves the Little Children

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  • Clarence Herbert Woolston, author of Jesus Loves the Little Children

    I was doing history research for my church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Our first pastor and co-founder in 1924 was Rev. George W. Crane, who as a young adult was a member of East Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His pastor at the time was Rev. Clarence H. Woolston.

    Rev. Woolston was the author of the lyrics of the children's song, Jesus Loves the Little Children. While we all know the chorus, very few people know the three verses, who the author was, or what song the tune came from.


    Words by C. Herbert Woolston
    Music by George F. Root

    Jesus calls the children dear,
    "Come to Me and never fear,
    For I love the little children of the world;
    I will take you by the hand,
    Lead you to the better land,
    For I love the little children of the world."


    Jesus loves the little children,
    All the children of the world.
    Red and yellow, black and white,
    All are precious in His sight,
    Jesus loves the little children of the world.

    Jesus is the Shepherd true,
    And He’ll always stand by you,
    For He loves the little children of the world;
    He’s a Savior great and strong,
    And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
    For He loves the little children of the world.


    I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
    And Your soldier I will be,
    For You love the little children of the world;
    And Your cross I’ll always bear,
    And for You I’ll do and dare,
    For You love the little children of the world.


    The tune comes from an old Civil War song, Tromp, Tromp, Tromp, the Boys are Marching. The Lyrics were written by Rev. Clarence Herbert Woolston, pastor of East Baptist Church in Philadelphia.


    Twelfth Baptist Church in Philadelphia on Richmond Street below Shackamaxon Street was having serious problems. Their pastor was charged with having illicit affairs with the organist and other women of the church.

    On October 14, 1877, forty members of Twelfth Baptist left the church and started their own church, East Baptist Church.

    1877 11 02 PI p03.jpg (Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2, 1877, p. 3)

    At first they held services at a meeting house on Frankford Avenue. Three months later, they had sixty-two members and were recognized by a local Association of Baptist churches. Shortly thereafter they completed the construction of a new church building on Hanover Street (later named Columbia Street around 1900) near Girard.

    By February, 1884, it had grown to 170 members. By May, 1886 they had 240 members, with a Sunday School attendance of 440. But they would soon be in need of another pastor. They called on Clarence H. Woolston. He entered his pastorate at East Baptist on January 16, 1887.


    Clarence was born on April 7, 1856 in Camden NJ, the son of Isaiah Woolston and Sarah Boice Woolston. He would be the oldest of four brothers. His high school years were spent at South Jersey Institute, a Baptist private school in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, for five years 1872-76. In 1875, he was persuaded to enter the ministry by evangelist H.G. DeWitt. After South Jersey Institute he attended Crozier Theological Seminary for two years (1876-1878?), a Baptist seminary near Chester, Pennsylvania.

    On March 15, 1880 he married Agnes Claire Worrall. He was also ordained that year, and became pastor of First Baptist Church of New Brunswick,1880-1885, then at First Baptist Church, Lambertville in northern New Jersey for two years (1885-1887). Then he answered the call to become pastor of East Baptist Church in Philadelphia, across the Delaware from his childhood hometown. He would be their pastor for the next forty years.

    In August, 1889, Rev. Woolston began the practice of using the stereopticon lantern to illustrate his sermons in the evening services.
    1892 Easter promo.jpg
    Also known as the Magic Lantern, the stereopticon had its roots in Philadelphia in 1860. It was basically a dual slide projector, allowing one image to slowly fade out as the next image slowly appeared. Rev. Woolston would use it to illustrate his sermons with images of the Holy Lands or Bible stories. Sometimes it would be the streets of Philadelphia and local events. Or it would be the labor riots in Pittsburgh, or the interiors of local saloons blended with the living conditions of drunkards.

    1894 06 18 PI p02.jpg (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 18, 1894, p. 2)

    His illustrations weren’t limited to the stereopticon. On one occasion he brought a live bear cub into the service to demonstrate the sin of stubbornness. On other occasions he was seen holding a leopard, or even a lion cub.


    In 1912 he began an annual Gospel Illustrators’ Convention, which met at East Baptist for two days each year.

    1913 02 26 PI p16.jpg1921 05 02 PI p02.jpg (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1913, p. 16; Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 1921, p. 2)

    By 1919 it had become a national organization with Dr. Woolston as president. It soon spread to other cities.

    Seeking Truth.jpgPenny Object Lessons.jpgBible Obhect Book.jpg
    He also wrote books to encourage others to use methods to illustrate sermons. In 1910 he wrote Seeing Truth: A Book of Object Lessons with Magical and Mechanical Effects. In 1916 he wrote Penny Object Lessons: 25 Lessons for 25 Cents. In 1925 he wrote The Gospel Object Book, and in 1926 he wrote The Bible Object Book.

    Under his ministry the church continued to grow, and it became necessary to expand the building. In June, 1890, foundations were started for new sanctuary, doubling the seating capacity. The dedication ceremony took place on December 28, 1890.

    1890 06 07 PI p07.jpg (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 1890, p. 7)

    Continued below...
    Last edited by Faber; 10-25-2020, 07:58 PM.

  • #2

    Clarence Woolston seldom took vacations. He was seldom away from his pulpit for the morning, afternoon and evening sermons. Even in the summer, he spent several years as director of East Baptist Camp in Cramer Hill, northern Camden, where the poorest of the poor received medical help, refreshments and religious services. But it had its effect on him. On Sunday morning, January 13, 1895, just three days before his eighth anniversary at East Baptist, he spoke of the curse of a life of sin, the cross of Jesus, and the glorious eternal life awaiting those who trusted in Jesus, then he staggered and fell. The deacons picked him up and carried him into the vestry room in an effort to revive him. Meanwhile the startled congregation feared that he had died. He spent the greater part of the following week confined to bed and attended by several physicians.

    But the following Sunday was a special occasion, for two reasons. Not only was it the celebration of his eighth anniversary, but it was also the day they burned their $5,000 mortgage as the congregation sang the Doxology.

    ​ (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1895, p. 1; Philadelphia Inquirer, January 21, 1895, p. 3)

    On January 21, 1900, at the 20th anniversary of his ordination, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon Rev. Woolston.

    By January 19, 1902 (Dr. Woolston’s 15th anniversary celebration), the church had 1,200 members. Bible School attended by 1,000 members.
    ​ (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 20, 1902, p. 1)

    Sunday, January 16, 1927. It was exactly forty years to the day since Dr. Woolston began his ministry at East Baptist. A special prayer service was held at 5:30 a.m.; a special musical service at 9 a.m.; the regular morning worship service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday School followed, and the evening worship service was held at 6:30 p.m. It would be his last anniversary at East Baptist Church.

    ​(Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 1927, p. 25)

    In February, 1927, he developed motor aphasia. On Sunday night, May 15, he developed pneumonia, and grew steadily worse through the week until he died early Friday morning, May 20, at the age of 71. According to his death certificate, cause of death was hypostatic pneumonia, with diabetes mellitus as a contributing factor.

    ​ (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 1927, p. 4; Death Certificate)

    For the next seventy three years, very little mention was made of East Baptist Church in the Philadelphia Inquirer outside of the obituaries and voting booth locations. East Baptist Church finally closed down in December, 2000. Plans were to turn it into a preschool center named after Rev. Woolston.

    ​ (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 2000, p, 2)

    But after several years of mismanagement and disrepair, with windows falling into neighbors' yards, developers finally purchased the building in 2013 and converted it into the Sheba apartment complex, containing 15 apartments.

    In 1920, it was acknowledged that Dr. Woolston had brought forty men to the ministry. One of them would have been Pastor George W. Crane, a confectioner by trade who was ordained into the ministry on June 27, 1906 at the age of 36.

    ​ (Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, 1920, p. 12)

    It was Rev. Woolston who joined George W. Crane and Mary B. Jones in marriage on February 3, 1897. George Crane, his mother Clara Easton, and other family members had been attending East Baptist Church.

    (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 1897, p. 17)
    Last edited by Faber; 10-25-2020, 08:04 PM.


    • #3
      We have been doing some background study on a lot of hymns that we sing. My daughter gave my son 2 books many years ago, called "Then Sings My Soul", volumes 1 and 2, by Robert Morgan. I found volume 3 a few years ago. And songs that we can't find in those books I spend time looking up the history online.

      It adds SO much to our singing to know the backgrounds of the hymnwriters. Good on you for doing the study on this beloved children's favourite. I did not know there were actual verses to it!

      George Root was quite prolific with his tunes.

      Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.


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